Is catfishing illegal in the UK?

talking about Catfish, this practice that has become so common nowadays. To put it in context, catfishing is basically usurping someone’s personality on social medias and/or the Internet to flirt with other people. So it all starts, for example, making a match on a social media, or giving a like, a follow … and at that precise moment is when you start talking to that person. But is catfish illegal in the UK?

Many good, ingenious and gullible people (which is not a bad thing, let’s not be so cynical) trust and start to feel something for this person or virtual profile. It is important to explain that, maybe, that person who does the catfishing chooses a personality that the other person (in this case, the hunted) knows but never in real life, that’s where it gets complicated and delicate (which the other was also).

“When something is too beautiful to be real, it is that it is.”

Types of catfishing

  • The first type would be the person who (is) takes pictures on the net of a random attractive person and creates a whole personality, a character, a persona and starts flirting through different dating apps and then gives the social networks to hunt the person.
Catfish' (2010 movie, Nev Schulmann documentary)
  • The second type, which does not make it worse, goes a step further and takes profiles of existing people on social networks and usurps them. Does this mean that he hacks them? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but mostly it is a no. Plain and simple, it takes pictures of an existing profile, its data, its name and starts hunting.

Is Catfish Illegal? 

The practice of catfishing as it is posed in the case of the first type of catfishing does not represent an offence in the UK, i.e. we are talking about a person who randomly takes photos from the internet to create a profile and meet people or flirt with other people. However, this activity could become a crime or an illegal activity when for example the person who practices catfishing, not only takes random photos to build a fake profile and meet people, but also commits fraud with respect to the people he meets on the network, being the case of the second type of catfishing. catfishing might be illegal if the activity of the catfish falls under a number of other, more general criminal offences and civil wrongdoings, which could be : 

Disfraz de preso para hombre rayas: Disfraces adultos,y disfraces  originales baratos - Vegaoo
  •  The criminal offence of fraud: The Fraud Act 2006 includes offences that would apply to anyone who assumes a false or non-existent identity to commit fraud as gain in money or property but it does not extend to emotional gain, sexual gratification or emotional gain.
  • The criminal offence of harassment: Often, catfishing also implies harassment of the victim, which also means that the catfish can be charged under the Protection from Harassment Act of 1997. Upon conviction for harassment, the maximum penalty the catfish can face is between 6 months and 10 years imprisonment, dependent on whether he or she has placed the victim in fear of violence.
  • the criminal offence of malicious communications: When it occurs online, which is almost always the case, catfishing could be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act of 1998. Under this law a catfish could be prosecuted if he sends his catfishing victim an electronic communication that conveys an indecent or seriously offensive message, a threat or information that the sender knows to be false. The maximum penalty a catfish can receive in this case is between 12 months and 2 years imprisonment. 

Having said that, if you are in the UK and at some point you have thought about going online and catfishing I recommend that you do not do it and if you do it try not to do it with the intention of harming anyone, otherwise, you can be sure that you could become a criminal if you commit fraud, harassment or send malicious information to someone. 


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